John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The Casoria Contemporary Art Museum in Naples has decided to protest the government's austerity measures... with FIRE.
A crazed museum director in Naples burned one of his own institution's paintings yesterday, and is threatening to destroy three more each week until Italy decides to better fund the arts.
A platoon of Italian commandos has taken up position around the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum in preparation of storming in with flash-bangs and beanbag guns. Actually, no: There's no indication that the Italian authorities care one whit about this wanton attack on the nation's cultural heritage. And that's kind of Manfredi's point. As he told the BBC, "Our 1,000 artworks are headed for destruction anyway because of the indifference of the government."
Italy's debt crisis has led politicians to pass a number of harsh cuts, which have dinged museums and other cultural institutions. Manfredi has been trying to draw attention to the economic starvation of his museum for some time, reports the BBC:
Last year, he announced he had written a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel asking for asylum, saying he was
fed up with the government's failure to protect Italy's rich cultural heritage.
He said he would take his entire museum with him if the asylum was granted, but never received a reply.
To commence his "Art War," as he calls the fiery pogrom against Casoria's treasures, Manfredi lit up a painting of a flower by French artist Severine Bourguignon, who watched in approval via webcam. One would've hoped that Manfredi would begin with one of his own artworks, but nope – maybe that's a perk of being the museum director.
So will Italy recover in time to save Casoria? Perhaps. At the rate of three incinerations a week, it will take the museum until 2019 to completely deplete its stock.
Top photo of museum director Antonio Manfredi by an unnamed Reuters stringer.